Identifying types of colleges.

The first thing to do is break down exactly what sort of options exist for college, decide what matters to you and what doesn’t, and then narrow your options accordingly.  This will allow you to identify your target colleges – institutions where you plan to submit an application.  We  offer extensive details on the various college options in the videos following this article, which allow you to…

…get a broad sense of the type of colleges that exist…
1) Vocational vs. 2-year vs. 4-year college
2) Public vs. private college
3) University vs. liberal arts college
4) Nonprofit vs. for-profit college
5) Highly selective vs. selective vs. non-selective

… and then consider other college choices that will impact your experience…
6) Financial aid policies
7) Special focus or affiliation
8) Diversity
9) Location, size, and housing
10) Majors offered
11) Campus activities

Some of these choices may already be clear-cut for you.  Perhaps you know you want a large school with a diverse student body.   Other decisions may be less clear, both in terms of what you want or even in terms of what the choices represent (what is the difference between a university and liberal arts college, anyway?).  Continue on with the videos in this section to learn more about each of these options and how they will impact your college experience.

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Timeling exploring college options.

This timeline-view gives you a guideline as to when in your high school career each activity is particularly relevant.  Certain activities have a single checkmark (for instance, under winter of 11th grade year), typically indicating a one-time or short-term endeavor.  Other activities have multiple checkmarks (for instance, every season from 11th through 12th grade), indicating ongoing commitments of time.

Timeline

Exploring college options

Selecting high school classes in preperation for college.

First, you should challenge yourself with difficult coursework and then do well in these courses.  Look for opportunities to take honors, AP, or IB courses which are recognized as offering a rigorous experience to students.  Also consider dual-enrolling at a nearby community college or college during your junior or senior year of high school, earning college credit while taking challenging courses that are not offered in your high school.

In addition to taking challenging courses and doing well, it’s important to take the right mix of classes.  More selective colleges prefer high school students who take at least five core academic classes most semesters (math, english, history, science, foreign language), in addition to a few classes in the arts.  Let’s take a look at these subjects in more detail to prioritize potential courses:

Math

Math is a subject that builds on itself over the years, becoming increasingly complex as you increase your skills.  Most colleges want students to have at least 3 years of high school math, though more selective colleges prefer 4 years.  Prioritize taking several of the following courses:

  • Algebra 1

  • Geometry

  • Algebra 2

  • Trigonometry

  • Pre-calculus & Calculus

Begin with Algebra 1 and Geometry, often considered the building blocks of higher level math and science classes.  Wrap up with Calculus, the highest level of math offered by many high schools and often considered the gold standard of pre-college math preparation.

English / Language Arts

Given the substantial reading and writing requirements of higher education, virtually all colleges expect you to take 4 years of English.

History / Social Studies

History courses offer insight into the world around you, and they also improve your critical reading and writing abilities.  College-bound students often take a minimum of 3 years of history courses, prioritizing the following:

  • US History

  • US Government

  • World History

  • Geography

Once these standard history courses are completed, college-bound students often choose to take an additional class in an area of history specific to the expertise of instructors in their particular high school.

Science

Science teaches you how to analyze information and apply theories to the real world.  Most colleges prefer that students take at least 3 years of laboratory science classes, while more selective colleges prefer 4 years.  Some specific classes to prioritize:

  • Physical Science or Geology

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

Foreign Language

In an increasingly globalized world, having some basic mastery in a language besides English is highly encouraged as part of your high school studies.  Most colleges prefer that you take at least 2 full years of the same foreign language, though many students choose to take 3-4 years.  It is not advisable to switch between multiple languages; instead, it’s best to choose a language of focus your freshman year and study it deeply throughout high school.

Arts

Though not considered core academic courses, classes in the arts broaden your high school experience and give you the opportunity to build a skillset outside of typical academics.  Many colleges recommend one or two semesters in the arts, though students who have a particular passion for a subject often choose to pursue it throughout their 4 years in high school.

Always make high school count, its very IMPORTANT!

College expands oppurtunities

college increases confidence

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